This week the legendary Elaine Stritch turned 87 years old. In honor of her birthday, we take a look at a drink she helped regain some popularity – The Vodka Stinger. In 1970, Stritch took on the role of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s Company and delivered the big 11:00 number, “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Another chance to disapprove;
another brilliant zinger.
Another reason not to move;
another Vodka Stinger!
I’ll drink to that.
For years, I sang that song and wondered exactly what a vodka stinger was. Once I found out, I honestly had to wonder why anyone would sing of ordering another one. But that’s just me.
Let’s start with The Stinger proper. A Stinger is a duo cocktail created by adding crème de menthe to a spirit. The classic Stinger is a three to one combination of brandy and white crème de menthe, shaken and served in a cocktail glass. A variation on The Stinger is the Green Hornet, in which the white crème de menthe is replaced with green crème de menthe.
There is not much to be found on the history of the drink. The earliest mention is in Tom Bullock’s Ideal Bartender, published in 1917. It originated as a digestif, probably a nice nightcap to sip before bed. Rumor has it that Reginald Vanderbilt actually ordered Stingers before dinner and elevated The Stinger to cocktail status making it the rage with New York socialites.
This classic cocktail does have some Hollywood history. Cary Grant spoke the remembered words, “Stingers, and keep them coming,” in the 1957 film “Kiss Them For Me.” The Stinger is also referenced in “The Bishop’s Wife,” “The Apartment,” and “Gorkey Park.” Seemingly sophisticated and glamorous, The Stinger was the perfect ending to a night out on the town.
The Vodka Stinger
This variation is traditionally equal parts vodka and white crème de menthe. Other recipes call for a reduction in crème de menthe. The result, in my opinion, is pretty much the same – a murky milk of magnesia tasting concoction. While I can appreciate the smooth, silky quality of the cocktail, the sweet, minty flavor was just too much for me to bear. And be warned! If you have any slight tendency at all toward acid reflux, this drink will kill you.
Another Vodka Stinger? Not for me. But I will continue to smile every time I hear Elaine Stritch sing out an order for another.